Friday, January 12, 2007

Laughing in Translation

I've been learning French on the internet. I finally gave in to my weakness for anything Mediterranean and took the first few steps to satisfaction. French is refreshingly sweet and musical to the ear. It has soft syllables and subtle intonation. It has the power to make even the atonal sound dulcet.

Like every language (romantic and otherwise) French has its little quirks. Every word has an associated gender. I wasn't too perturbed by this as I became accustomed to 'genders' when I learnt Hindi. Like all controversial gender issues, it is more than challenging to construct a sentence without the kind of offence that can be kept out of the courts. Besides, gender-oriented languages seldom have a logical reason behind classifying words as either masculine or feminine. Our astute middle school Hindi teacher told us to 'say what sounds right'. It hasn't been that easy with French.

In French every masculine word is prefixed with 'le' and every feminine term with 'la'. For example; 'la femme' means 'woman' or 'the woman' and 'le homme' means 'man' or 'the man'. Also, un and une are used as prefixes with masculine and feminine terms respectively. For example ; 'une femme' is 'a woman' or 'one woman' and 'un homme' is 'a man' or 'one man'. Sounds simple doesn't it? Wait for the next bit.

In French even inanimate objects have an associated gender. Even streets, books, wine etc. have genders. Here are a few examples
  • 'une production' - a production (feminine)
  • 'un film' - a film(masculine)
  • le livre - book/the book (masculine)
  • la tour eiffel- the eiffel tower(feminine)


Take a load of this! How am I expected to keep a straight face through the perils of translation?

ps: In French 'La cuisine' means 'the kitchen'(feminine) and 'Le livre' means 'the book'(masculine). Interesting....

2 comments:

Devadutta D Ghat said...

Nice bit of french education. Thanks.

"In French even inanimate objects have an associated gender. Even streets, books, wine etc. have genders. Here are a few examples"

Similar to Hindi! and one of the reasons I hate hindi.

Amit said...

Hi!..
came across thru orkut..

la diva, bonne ├ętude!!,merci..


keep going!!!

-Amit